By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), has reached a settlement agreement with Buddy’s Kitchen Inc., a Minnesota-based company, resolving claims that the company discriminated against non-U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status when verifying authorization to work in the United States.

The IER initiated the investigation to determine whether the company was violating the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision. The investigation revealed Buddy’s Kitchen routinely discriminated by asking non-U.S. citizens, primarily lawful permanent residents (green card holders), to present specific Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-issued documents to prove their permission to work in the United States, while making no such request of U.S. citizens. Under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, all employees have the right to choose the valid documentation they wish to present when demonstrating that they have permission to work in the United States.

Unfortunately, Buddy’s Kitchen’s practice is rather common with employers even though it is clearly unlawful.

Under the settlement, Buddy’s Kitchen will take the following actions:
  1. pay $40,000 in civil penalties to the United States;
  2. change their employment policies to comply with the anti-discrimination provision of the INA so that it will not request specific, more or different documents that is necessary in the verification process;
  3. train its employees who are responsible for verifying and reverifying workers’ permission to work in the United States, by attending IER-provided webinar;
  4. post IER’s poster, “If You Have the Right to Work,” in English and Spanish; and
  5. be subjected to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements for three years.
If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.